Whitewater Center closes water channels after deadly amoeba detected in water

The U.S. National Whitewater Center has confirmed that the park’s water channels were closed last Friday after investigators detected a kind of waterborne amoeba in the water.

The investigation was launched after an Ohio teen fell sick and died after visiting the entertainment park’s water channels.

Dr. Marcus Plescia, health director for Mecklenburg County, said the National Whitewater Center willingly decided to close the channels for the public. The channels are very popular for kayaking and rafting. Earlier, officials had said that the park would be ordered to close temporarily if it didn’t agree to do so voluntarily.

Speaking on the topic, Plescia added, “The USNWC is working with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local health officials to develop next steps. This is not a great surprise, because this organism is ubiquitous. It’s present in many open bodies of water.”

The waterborne amoeba in question, Naegleria Fowleri, was found in almost all of eleven water samples collected by the CDC from the facility last Wednesday. Usually, the amoeba is found in warm, open bodies of water.

The National Whitewater Center claims that it takes all actions required to stop the amoeba, such as using ultraviolet (UV) radiation to disinfect water that re-circulate in the park’s concrete channels. According to the park’s claims, the technique “inactivates” 99.99 per cent of waterborne amoeba.

“The U. S. National Whitewater Center voluntarily closed its whitewater rafting activities Friday afternoon after water samples tested positive for a brain-eating amoeba, officials confirmed. Visitors said that on Friday about 4 p. m., a staff member blew a whistle and had everyone get out of the water.” “We feel quite certain amoeba is present in Whitewater Center,” Mecklenburg County Health Department Director Dr. Marcus Plescia said at a news conference Friday evening. Advice was given by both State and County health departments following positive test results for Naegleria fowleri amoeba,” according to a news report published by WSOC TV.

Local, state and federal health officials are investigating after an Ohio teenager died from brain-eating amoeba days after visiting the Whitewater Center in Charlotte. That is what is believed to have happened to recent high school graduate Lauren Seitz, 18, from Ohio. A letter from the Mecklenburg County Health Department said if the facility didn’t close on its own, it would be ordered to close temporarily. The Health Department is working closely with the Whitewater Center, Plescia said. Naegleria fowleri is a brain-eating amoeba found in warm freshwater, like lakes and ponds. It does not make people sick if it’s swallowed, but if it goes up a nasal cavity, where it’s close to the brain, it can be deadly.

According to a story published on the topic by Miami Herald, “U. S. National Whitewater Center officials closed the park’s water channels Friday after investigators detected the waterborne amoeba suspected in the death of an Ohio teen who had visited the center. Dr. Marcus Plescia, Mecklenburg County’s health director, said the center voluntarily decided to close the channels, which are popular for whitewater rafting and kayaking. County manager Dena Diorio, in an earlier email to commissioners, had said health officials would order the facility to close temporarily if it did not agree to do so voluntarily.”

The center remains open for all other operations and activities, which include non-aquatic activities such as a zip line and rope courses. “The USNWC is working with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local health officials to develop next steps,” the center said in a statement. At a news conference, Plescia said lab tests will be done to confirm the preliminary results announced Friday. “This is not a great surprise, because this organism is ubiquitous,” he said. “It’s present in many open bodies of water.”

A report published in Journal Now revealed, “The water also is tested regularly at two other whitewater parks in Oklahoma and Maryland that are similar to Charlotte’s – artificial rivers created by pumped water. No such standards exist for the Whitewater Center, which attracts hundreds of thousands of people a year to concrete channels that recirculate 12 million gallons of water. While the center’s primary purpose is not swimming, kayakers and rafters routinely get soaked or go in the water. County officials see it as more like a river than a pool.”

Regulating the center’s water “will be looked at going forward because (the death) has brought a lot of attention to the potential for problems,” Dr. Marcus Plescia, Mecklenburg County’s health director, told the Observer. Plescia added that regulating the Whitewater Center would be challenging because it’s much more complex than a swimming pool. Stormwater can flow into the open body of water, he said, making it hard to achieve the sanitation level of pools.

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